Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Random Ten

The Magnetic Fields "Fido, Your Leash Is Too Long" 69 Love Songs
Elvis Costello "The Other Side of Summer" Mighty Like a Rose
Guided by Voices "They're Not Witches" Alien Lanes
Brian Eno "Back Clack" The Drop
Tony Lucca "Welcome to the Bay" Sin City Social Club Volume 3
Sonic Youth "The Sprawl" Daydream Nation
Archers of Loaf "Let the Loser Melt" Seconds Before the Crash
Neil Young "When You Dance I Can Really Love" Live Rust
Leo Kottke "Peckerwood" One Guitar, No Vocals
Roxy Music "Out of the Blue" Country Life

New Musik "On Islands" From A to B

QOTD: "If I have an aneurysm tonight, it's out of gratitude." Not a bad list this week, if nothing too obvious.


Long Dog's Longing

For Dog Blog Friday: Mookie figures if gougeres are good enough for guests, they should be good enough for him.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sure She's Got Her "S" in an Odd Place, But....

Got nothing today. Damn the corporate toadying Supreme Court, the paralytic CA constitution, the stupid fumbling incompetence of Martha Coakley, of Air America, of the Democrats, of Omar Minaya, of NBC. I'm sure there are people/groups/dupes/dummies/disasters I've left out. You can create your own loser list.

In the meantime, fun two ways. Gotta love this woman.

She makes me bust my frame and I don't even mind.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lunching at a Club that Wouldn't Have Me as a Member

As James at Coyote Mercury would have it, this post isn't here. As some of you may know, if your blogworld collides with your FBworld, I had the great privilege to eat at Club 33 in Disneyland with Amy, and TL, and the Queen (and it was even a royal birthday!) a few weeks back. Wrote about it. That finally got published. Wanna read about where you can't go? Then go here.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Once I Made Shit Up, Part II

Lots of paid hobby to do tonight, folks, so in the meantime here's something no one would ever pay me for, promise--what I think is the last short story I wrote, probably back in 1992ish? Note--pre-cell phones. What a simpler world. I like some of this, and some sort of embarrasses, and I bet you can guess what is what. Luckily the main character is totally completely wholly unlike anyone I've ever met.

Oh, and the sucker's kinda long, too, at least for blogtopia.


Past Tom fast the Volvo went, so much so it seemed its logo’s V’s tilted forward like arrows of intent. All he saw was this--Volvo. And this--three antennae. Radio, CB, phone, he figured. Out his windshield Tom spied his own poor excuse for an antenna, bent at 80° from the hula skirts and the brush at the car wash. His didn’t even retract.

He wasn’t one to worry over cars; for him cars were made to go. But this antenna thing was a new wrinkle in the highway. What would be next, satellite dishes? Who wants to be so connected in a car?

So yes, he was driving alone, but that’s how Tom liked it, for it was the lone time he felt safe to let his voice out and into a song. He sang badly and knew it, shocked himself with the keys he could unlock, but what the hell, the noise kept him awake. He particularly liked pretending he could do accents, figuring if he already butchered things, he couldn’t kill the dead deader. There was Billy Bragg, say, all that Briton in his mouth. And no, not the political Bragg, he liked the lost at love Bragg, the one who sang when the world falls apart, some things stay in place. Bragg probably should have been the last but he was just the latest of a long line of pity-pop Tom invested too much of what Hallmark calls heart in.

Superhighways were super, he figured--you could space on them and still not die. Still, there was a flipside: You had to worry about where to whizz. This was the kind of highway you had to get off of to leak, and Tom had a bad habit of picking the exits without return ramps. He never had much trouble finding the interstate again, but he hated the roads that paralleled them, the way they were clearly big shit once, and now all their strip motels were for sale. Highway Darwinism, he called it. Not that he ever stopped at a greasy spoon so slowed the grease had congealed, and it wasn’t just how depressed it would make him. He could be depressed enough on his own. It was the past; he hated how much it hung on like toilet paper glommed to your shoe. It was his past; it just kept getting longer. And he knew he couldn’t resent that too much, because if it stopped elongating like a Slinky pulled away from him, that meant the Slinky was hurtling back, his own personal universe collapsing. If the past stopped, it meant those studies about Alzheimer’s and TV dinners were true, or it meant he stopped, period. Tom couldn’t imagine the dead remember much.

Ah, the highway whizzes of yore, back before Minit Marts and Uni-Marts, when you had Marty’s Esso, and got dinner glasses with each fill-up, and had to ask for the bathroom key, which was attached to a foot long dowel stick too many morons had etched their initials into. Nothing cleared the sinuses like the stink of gas station bathrooms--if they smelled like ammonia they would have been pleasant. They smelled of truckers’ piss, he figured, all that coffee and all those miles. What you pissed would reek, too, if it came from a dick that wore the condoms you could buy in those places, from the machines you had to pull the metal sheet down from, so kids wouldn’t freak seeing the woman with the O-for-orgasm mouth that meant French Tickler or Swedish Massage Oils.

Of course, when a kid Tom never didn’t pull the metal guard down, even faked having to pee on trips to the point his parents took him to a urologist. Years later condoms were boring, he knew that, just as he knew he wouldn’t have to worry about them for a while.

Gina was gone.

He figured exit 38 was as good as any, and lit into the ramp fast, steering with his knees because Gina hated when he did so and she was gone and maybe the car could work as some odd voodoo doll. Gone was dramatic, he knew, he always ran commentary on his own pity like the alternate soundtrack on laser discs when the movie’s director lets you in on the secrets and explains the magic away. But Gina was magic and Gina was gone, so the syllogism was easy to finish.

They had been together only two years, but he never saw a woman half that long, and after six women he had to believe it was partially his fault. Each relationship he took a lesson away: Anne--clip your toenails, Toni--don’t clip toenails in bed, Missy--pleasantly plump isn’t a compliment, Cordelia--read more, Celia--don’t call her Cordelia when coming, Steph--nice people aren’t interesting. But he knew he was being reductive, and he knew he just didn’t talk well, although he could speak and he could listen.

But Gina said, “We don’t talk....”

Tom hated ellipsis in conversation, could feel each period leap to his own tongue as if they were pills he had to swallow. He at least knew enough to turn off SportsCenter.

“Talk?” he asked, like an actor hoping to remember lines.

“I don’t know if you’re capable,” Gina said, both her hands going up into her black hair as if Tom’s words, those right words, might be lost in there, just not making it to her ears.

Tom wanted to say, “Talk about what?” but he knew he was supposed to know. That he didn’t know. “How was work today?”

Gina’s face looked like it tried to smile and it just wouldn’t happen. “We work in the same place. You know the answer. You know Gib’s an asshole and that our computer screens are giving us tumors and that we’ll never get raises and that the boys we work with will be lewd and crude...”

“Ah, yes, I know the dudes to whom you allude...”

“I’m trying to be serious here--quit evading things. Let’s talk.”

They sat there till even the furniture grew quiet. They didn’t even seem to breathe.

Tom had a choice between Exxon and Texaco at the top of the ramp and turned to the Exxon. He wouldn’t buy their gas but took perverse pleasure in peeing in their stations, his own kind of environmental revenge for the Exxon Valdez. Sure enough the Exxon was just far enough off the highway that he panicked and cursed, two actions that almost always followed each other for Tom. He hated waiting for what was promised, and this stupid anger--he called it stupid anger, the sudden, quick rages he could consume himself with, but only over nothing--this stupid anger made him forget about Gina.

Instead he panicked about not wanting. What if one day his want just dried up? He knew many would say that’s what life is about, an asceticism so pure. Yet he was convinced the sound of one hand clapping was the sound of a hand needing a hand, as it were. Yet what if one didn’t get to refuse desire? If it just left, like a lover? Maybe thinking about milestones was a millstone around his neck, forcing his head to look down, look backward. Here he was a half year away from thirty and what shocked him most wasn’t thirty but that he felt nothing, that even his own existence for three decades seemed abstract. Now, a nervous breakdown, that could signal something, a spasm and release, a kind of psychic shit-letting. But thirty, all he could say was, So?

The Exxon appeared at a hill’s bottom, sure enough one of those modern ones with the “roof” suspended so high over the pumps you knew people would get wet from sideways rain, anyway, and what was worse, some engineer, grinning tight-lipped, planned it that way. Beneath this too high canopy sat what appeared to be ten phone booths fused together--the station itself. Vending machines. Lots of white. Fluorescence. Doors to bathrooms. No nostalgic leak would be left here.

By the pumps sat the Volvo, its three antennae gesturing to Tom with what he imagined was the Swedish way of giving the finger. It was revving up and pulling out of the Full Service island, and a sixteen-year-old scrambled to scribble down the license plate number on the credit card slip. As he walked back to the office he asked Tom, “You lost or do you just need to use the lav-or-atory?” saying it like he just watched a Frankenstein movie.

Tom pointed to the bathroom door as an answer. The kid, tossing the credit card clipboard down, sang, “Some car,” in that rising envy singsong teenage boys have for things measured in cubic inches.

The bathroom was spotless. The fan drowned out the kid, if he was still talking, Tom couldn’t tell. Tom was too busy confronting the tallest urinal he had ever seen. Tom was six foot plus, so his worst worry was a crowded bathroom and having to stoop to the boys’ urinal. This was a new experience. He felt he needed a step ladder, or had to perform a trick shot and turn his back and fire a stream up over his shoulder. Instead he just got up on tippy toes. Whose idea was this urinal? He imagined he were still closer to Harrisburg and Three Mile Island, and ever since 1979 everybody had just grown and taken their plumbing fixtures with them. He imagined the mammoth pisses of the nuclearly enlarged. Laughing didn’t make staying on tip-toe any easier; he would have to check his shoes for errant spray. Not that it mattered: the only person who could see him was the kid outside the door, fantasizing about multi-antennaed Volvos. As picky as Gina was about clothes, she never complained about his shoes. Must have been because she was nearly as tall as he, well, not really, but close enough they heard World Trade Center jokes. And she was into eye contact, locked you into those chocolate browns so deep you could feel like a hot fudge sundae melting. It never seemed she looked anywhere but the back of your skull--through the rest of your head. She mostly criticized Tom’s clothes, then, when she was taking them off him. He stopped reminiscing when he realized he was just standing there, his hand holding his penis slowly coming to life. The idea of an erection in an Exxon bathroom, however sanitized, scared the shit out of him, a feeler out for disease. He jiggled, tucked, zipped, flushed, headed out the door.

“Some car,” the boy was still singing, shifting emphasis, getting more out of two syllables than anyone could, unless that anyone had to work a six hour shift alone.

Tom figured the kid needed the conversation, and was curious, so asked, “Why is the urinal so high in there?”

“High?” the kid said.

“Yeah, it’s a good foot further up the wall than most....what if, oh, Mickey Rooney stopped here?”

“Mickey Rourke?”

“Rooney--he’s before your time. He’s short, that’s what matters.” Tom began to worry about his attempted conversational altruism.

“So you’re saying it’s high?” The kid got up and went to the door to look. Tom began to wonder if the kid belonged here--no blue overalls, no name in an oval over the right breast. “Gee, I never realized, you’re right. I just tinkle out back.”

Tom felt an urge to leave quick; even sixteen is too old to say tinkle.

The kid, though, sensed it was a turning moment, so grabbed Tom’s right arm and gave it a little pull as if testing to see if it was attached. “Hey,” he said, “wanna see something really weird?”

Tom wasn’t sure there was weirder and made a face as if he sat on three aces in poker. The kid continued quick, “Down the road? Shartlesville? Roadside America? There everything is small. You have to go that way anyway to get back on the highway.” The kid sat back down nodding his head as if he told his best secret. Tom moved as fast as he could without seeming to move fast, tossing a thank you over his shoulder like flipping a bone to a dog to distract him.

Tom was happy back in the real world of his car. Saw the blue sign for the highway, the sign with the “TO” over it which meant you’re getting hotter but aren’t boiling yet. That’s when he glimpsed the sign “Roadside America--1 mile--World’s Largest Miniature Village.” Why not go? Slowing down on the way to his parents’ house always seemed worthwhile; once there he would merely sit through evenings seeing them both fall asleep in their matching Laz-y-Boys, and he would watch the cable channel that previews all the video releases. They spice it up by using different clips from the same films, he had to give them that. He knew that this time the love stories would pang him a bit, and he would long for love in sixty second doses.

How home did to him he never knew, but what it did was clear--scrape his marrow clean with grapefruit spoons. The hope was to avoid saying anything that could anger anyone, which got harder and harder. The secret was finding the thing outside the family that everyone could hate unanimously--bureaucracy, bad drivers, rotten waitresses, radon. That was practically the whole list. Tom had visiting home down to major holidays, which meant religious ones, and/or major illnesses, which meant his mom’s. Tom would go and sit in the church he hated even more than he wanted to and pray for his mom’s good health.

“It’s a large small world after all!--1/2 Mile” the sign beamed in that paint full of glitter. Tom couldn’t understand how they got around the Disney copyright, but why would the wonderful world of Walt--on ice, Tom joked--care about Podunk, PA? It was harder for Tom not to care. Even as a child he kept confusing maps of America and their red interstates and blue highways with his Visible Man model he painted himself, with its red arteries and blue veins. He joked he couldn’t go because the name was redundant: all America was Roadside, and all Roadside was America.

But he knew such a philosophy meant he was avoiding something. In college he always seemed to learn the tangential lesson in each class, clinging to the aside while the meat of the matter rotted. From philosophy all he remembered was philosophers led bitter lives. Something about Nietzsche in bed with syphilis and a relative charging admission to glimpse him. Having such a life, Tom would seek beyond good and evil, too.

He made his own self-diagnosis years ago--compulsive quasi-impulsiveness. Tom would get himself right to there, then back away. Drive through the scenic town, but never stop. Sit on a high wall as a besotted freshman in college, imagine tilting over just enough, imagine the fall, but never imagine, let alone actually, die. Nearly ask Gina to marry him. He wanted to; he knew it vaguely had to do with her desire for talk. Gina just wanted to know what was next. How he felt about next.

Tom hated next. Even sex for Tom was best when they could both sleep it off, still tangled, somehow, that sudden move from exertion to placidity, from twoness to oneness to nothingness. He loved love in the afternoons and could count on the dreams it would bring. Gina was perturbed by this regularity, he could tell, but even that couldn’t stop him--neither sex nor a nap by itself was ever the same.

Roadside America just appeared, it would be too hard to drive past it. Inside, it was a shock to see the world so small. He expected a train set, or something, but this was frozen moment, ground level. His head bobbed about like the Goodyear blimp above the Astroturf--this odd world small and far away. He thought back to the extraordinary urinal and felt ready for it, now.

Tom wanted to quip, “This isn’t a big deal,” but there was no one to share a sly smile with. What was almost odder than a world in miniature was he could see the superhighway out the window, everybody headed somewhere, like they knew something. That’s what was wrong with Roadside America--whoever set the models up put no roads in it. The diorama had lanes and avenues and all the polite ways we have for pouring asphalt. But then it didn’t need a highway, Tom thought, it had one right outside. He wasn’t sure he liked how large the models made him feel, unsure he was big enough to be who he felt he was becoming.

If Gina were here, he could hold her, fold her into him. He would say, “Who needs words when we are the giants of our world?” realizing as he said it he needed words, he was using them to say he didn’t need them.

Maybe he could get Gina back if they were apart. He needed to get her to Roadside America alone, to let her tower over something for awhile. Maybe then she could feel she could need him and not have to give anything up. Maybe the world, the one outside, is this small. All this size stuff just confused him.

Back out in the car again, he wasn’t sure if he missed the on-ramp on purpose or not. The road he was on ran the right way, edging along the zip of the highway. It was growing colder, the way December does--each minute of the clock is a degree on the thermometer in a late afternoon. He pulled his headlights on even though it was too early for them. He snuggled his parka tighter, thinking how Gina gave it to him on one of their last kitsch excursions together. They would do discount stores on Sundays like religion; almost bought one of those cleaners that smoke slowly like hookahs at the center of most stores.

“Oh divine,” Gina shrieked in her shopping voice, the one full of sliding stress and exaggerated joy.

Tom came running, not much into the hunt for the day, trying to hide his sudden boredom, worrying they were losing each other. He knew from past failures each relationship had a moment it ticked off like lights going out, and it was just a matter of how long the couple would sit there in the dark before exiting though separate doors. Didn’t the couple that thrift-shopped together bop together? At least that’s what one faux-Chinese scroll they bought read.

“Put it on. Put it on.”

So he did, the pea green parka with the hood with the indeterminate animal fur fringe.

“It’s so you.”

“I had one of these when I was, geez, twelve, I guess.”

“There you go.”

“There I went, you mean. I don’t wear my Qianna anymore, either.”

Gina pouted. He hated when she pouted because he found her so cute that way, and worried what that meant. He also hated knowing she knew he loved her pout, her full lips pursing as if they’d just been kissed. Gina had a mouth worth setting up camp in.

“How ‘bout I buy it for you?”

Tom couldn’t say no, now. She always won these battles, mostly because he hated risking public arguments. Or, when he was honest with himself, he admitted he hated risking any arguments. Tom was the Neville Chamberlain of love always willing to sign any of his Czechoslovakias away.

“You have to wear it home.”

He did. Grew to like it. She once made him wear it when they made love, made him tie the hood tight, the kind of hood so deep it made his eyes disappear into it like the space alien on Bugs Bunny. The hood was so snug, she had to force her own head into it, too. Gina loved to be languorous, making love as if underwater and there was too much pressure to bear. So much of time with her was like that, though, the world slowing down. He couldn’t stand future talk because of it. Tom wanted a life like slow sex--those days when they massaged each other so much yet so gently easily that they couldn’t tell when they were touching or not. Burnished, they were. Ah, to gleam like that, bright bodies.

He shook his head to wake himself up to the roadway, knowing full well side roads don’t allow for as much inattention as highways. Sure enough he came up fast on a truck hauling out Christmas trees, folded tight like umbrellas. “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” he said aloud, “or there’ll be no Merry Christmas, Thomas.” His headlights beamed into the green and chick wire, spinning emeralds. Gina and he had used a fake tree last year, an aluminum jobby with one of those turning wheels of colored light you point at it--they got it at a thrift store, of course. It wasn’t just a case of what Tom called “kitsch as kitsch can”--they hated the idea of chopping something down. Or as Gina said, “O lord, we welcome you as a baby into our world by killing this innocent evergreen. Happy now?”

The truck made a wide right onto the highway, another entrance Tom missed. But Tom knew that following the truck was like passing a black cat’s path--he would have to renounce too much before he was ready. He continued on the smaller road, half giggling at himself, for the highway was always nearly in sight--some hero he was.

Some Christmas this was going to be; he hadn’t even been able to tell his folks Gina wasn’t coming with him. They would be cordial about it to his face, but happy behind his back for he knew Gina was too weird for them. She represented another step on the de-evolutionary ladder away from who his parents were. They feared Tom would mutate into her, leaving them alone, wishing for opposable thumbs, or nose rings. That just showed the gulf between Tom and them--he couldn’t bring himself to get an ear pierced, let alone a nose. There was something he didn’t like about giving up any part of his body, after all, he thought, you never know when it might come in handy. As for Gina’s tiny diamond in her nose, well, that’s all she ever wore. That was her style: do something unusual so matter-of-factly it could stun. He liked to fancy her exotic, a trip to other worlds, like that kid in “Araby” thinking he found the spice of the Middle East in a cheap Dublin bazaar and getting that all mixed up with love. That was one story he couldn’t forget from college, and not just because it got taught to him several times. He couldn’t tell if he’d ever get past such a notion of love--the quest, the foreignness of it all. He always felt as if he were on a secret mission, yet everyone could sense he was a spy. And then finally he’d be found out, unable to speak the language, unable to keep up with the words he didn’t quite know.

Tom got spooked by what was at the side of the road, casting short shadows in the last of the day’s light. Baby Christmas trees, fields of them. They got taller as they grew away from the road and up the slight rise to his right. Imagining himself back at Roadside America with his giant’s-eye-view, he could see the pines as a kind of razor stubble. At dusk the trees seemed to glow green, especially rising out of the winter grass gone white like straw. He could never get over how failing light made the world more vivid, how the contrast between day and night set everything in sharper relief. The trees held the half-light in their boughs. The poor things, Tom thought, just growing unknowing. Filling up their allotted space like cookies going from dough to baked, their purpose was to die, to stand in the corner of somebody’s living room and then lie on the edge of somebody’s curb and then rot in a landfill on which more trees might someday grow. But for now they had the innocence of all little things.

Close to crying as he had been in years, Tom pulled the car over and stopped, not quite sure why he did either. Out of the car he hitched up and over the fence with some grace, his body responding to something, finding its room to uncoil.

He headed up the hill, the trees rising in size, knee-high, thigh-high, waist-high, the air green, the air spruce, his mind a pine cone. He passed his hands so slightly over the trees, damp with their sap, and sweet. He touched so many he wasn’t sure if he was still touching them anymore.

That’s when he spotted one missing. The neat regimental lines, this parade of pines, and one good soldier gone. There wasn’t a stump or anything. Just a space, a six by six with nothing to fill it. I can’t stay here long, but long enough, Tom thought, as he crouched down, flipping his hood up. He felt the cold this once, and tightened his parka against it, burying his hands deeper in the deepest pockets--it was one of those coats with two sets, as if it knew hands had days they wanted back into the body. He never knew green came in so many colors. He never knew so much was waiting and so little waited back. He never knew loneliness wasn’t a privilege, and didn’t make him any more special. These trees are all the same and beautiful, he knew.

Far below him the highway moved what didn’t seem fast anymore, cars off both ways, coming and going. He couldn’t hear it, couldn’t tell if that was distance or the muffling of his hood. When the breeze blew, he felt himself shift on the balls of his feet ever-so-slightly, then rock back to where he was. When the light was gone, he would get up and leave. The trees were whispering, he knew, but they weren’t saying anything he could tell, going empty with green, so, so close to something.

Labels: ,

Monday, January 25, 2010

Some Kind of Spinning Away

It's possible this song might be the first top 40 hit I remember from my youth, but like too much with the memory thing (or is that the fact thing?), when I look up the real true details, my memory is a mess. This was a a hit in 1970, but I'm remembering it from the years at the town's pool, Rello's, privately owned, where my sisters both worked summers as teens collecting fees/checking memberships at the gate and where I learned to swim, and what's now more valuable as real estate so is just filled in land plus everyone has their own pools now, so who needs community and the hope of crushes and the whole employee class of lifeguards who mostly just practiced winding the string on their whistles both left and right.

But at the snack bar, on the juke box, "Hitchin' a Ride." Now, do I really recall this from being seven? Was it still on the box for years, a top 5 hit someone liked, so the 45 never left its place? Is it just a song left spinning on the turntable in my head, a head old enough it still has a turntable in it?

I don't know. It's an old head that loves its turntable. And so I've avoided metaphors of the deep end, or the fear of the high dive, or telling the tale of the Rello grandchild, one of twins, who at age 10 died of weird complications after having his tonsils out. We knew the family, it was that kind of town. Also the kind where few probably read Thackeray (even if the band screwed with his novel's title), hitch hiking was considered something people from lesser, coarser towns would do, and being a one hit wonder would be an achievement, a getting out, a moment suburbia might bubble to something less sub-, if only for as long as the single played. How much hope can you expect so far down the Passaic River, where it's insignificant enough even William Carlos Williams wouldn't bother to write about it.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Make Your List, Fat Guy

For Dog Blog Friday: Nigel hoping to get an early start on being a good dog for 2010. That damn Santa, always watching.


Friday Random Ten

The Golden Palominos "Wings" Pure
The Magnetic Fields "The Way You Say Good-Night" 69 Love Songs
Peter Blegvad "Shirt & Comb" King Strut & Other Stories
ABBA "Knowing Me, Knowing You" The Best Of (The Millennium Collection)
Tom Verlaine "Sleepwalkin'" Warm and Cool
Channel Light Vessel "Little Luminaries" Automatic
Marshall Crenshaw "Never Coming Down" Jaggedland
David Sylvian & Robert Fripp "Jean the Birdman" The First Day
The Du-Tells "We're Still Here" Wish You Were Here: Love Songs for New York
The Gothic Archies "This Abyss" The Tragic Treasury: Songs from a Series of Unfortunate Events

3 Mustaphas 3 "Anapse to Tsigaro" Heart of Uncle

Inspirational verse: "You've got a devastating point of view/and everything you say is true." Obscure "super" group: Bill Nelson, Roger Eno, Kate St. John. Great guitarists in odder settings. A 9/11 song into Lemony Snickett. And some fake ethnic music to take us home.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

So, a Needle Pulling Cleopatra

At least by my any-day-in-history calendar Friday is the 229th anniversary of the erection of Cleopatra's Needle in New York's Central Park, one of the few times the words "erection" and "Central Park" were not followed by a bust by the vice squad. Wikipedia, however, says the date is February 22, 1881, but who knows, it might take a month to get a 240 ton obelisk up (sadly, I wouldn't know). The funny part (you certainly didn't think it was my jokes did you?) is the tower's title is a misnomer, as it stood in Egypt a good 1000 years or 8,765,800 hours prior to Cleopatra...that's over 2 million x greater than modern medicine says is healthy, of course, but facts like that tend to bite you in the asp, don't they. No, it was Thutmose III (formerly known as Smutnose, no doubt a buddy of Biggus Dickus and Incontinenta Buttocks) who thrust the mighty cylinder skyward. Alas, he never got into a Shakespeare play, let alone got portrayed by Claudette Colbert or Liz Taylor, so no memorializing for him. And if you wondered about the inscriptions, and who doesn't, they were added during the reign of Ramsesses II, therefore making the shaft ribbed for your pleasure.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Democratic Math

Blog Is Good for Anything That Ails You

Last week the ever-clever Steven Goldman of Baseball Prospectus and the Pinstriped Blog (he's a real writer trapped in a baseball writer's paycheck) added to what seems to be a sort of meme flying around the world of baseball bloggers--a list of their Top Ten favorite movie musicals. His is pretty good (certainly better than Keith Law's and Joe Posnanski's), but of course you know mine's better, cause it's mine and all. It seems the "rule" was to leave off rock docs/concert films, so mine does not include faves like Stop Making Sense, The Last Waltz, Big Time (why is this not on DVD?), perhaps even Urgh! A Music War (which I haven't seen since the '80s and it might not have aged as well as I have, very unfortunate for it). But my list also leaves off animated musicals, because, after all, you can make a cartoon sing any way you'd like (it's like auto-tune, but done with drawings and computers and probably the powder they made from Walt's head when they realized it wasn't worth keeping him on ice any longer). *

Clearly my love of the musical takes a bit more twisted and dark a turn than these fellows, who might know baseball better, but in Goldman's case, he's a Yankee fan, so the smarts has to stop a bit short of a full double feature, no? Without more overture, and with all apologies to musicals from my youth that have their horrible little songs lodged in my brain (what I'd give to excise "Truly Scrumptious" from my head) but really aren't very good--Willy Wonka (the Wilder one, no comment on Johnny Depp as Michael Jackson as Wonka), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang--and then something like Grease, which I had seen on Broadway and realized the movie was a big big sell out/mistake, even then, proto-snob that I was.

10) Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
How this film didn't make one of the three lists is a mystery to me, but then again it probably wasn't an immersion experience for everyone. At least for this suburban NJ boy, it certainly helped me to think about not dreaming it but being it. Plus the first hour, till Meatloaf gets served again, more or less doing an imitation of all of Sha Na Na at once, is pretty damn fun.

9) Pennies from Heaven (1981)
Steve Martin revealing his coarser side, music suckering the characters first, us second, Bernadette Peters' best film role, Christopher Walken years before Fatboy Slim made him dance famous, and some lovely lovely original period songs, all set to Edward Hopper recreations. Not a happy film about film as the wrong way to happiness.

8) The Wizard of Oz (1939)
It's simply undeniable. Plus Margaret Scary Hamilton.

7) It's Always Fair Weather (1955)
Way better than On the Town--it's sort of a sequel--for my money, as it's about disillusionment (I'm a sourpuss, ain't I?). But there's Cyd Charisse, ever lovely, and the trash can dance, and the -wise song, and people worried advertising was a sell out in 1955. All in CinemaScope (except no substitutes).

6) All That Jazz (1979)
When Roy Scheider passed away, it's this film, not Jaws, that lept to my mind, which says something about me, doesn't it. Very '70s, very Fosse, not in the least fussy. Go see more of what I wrote upon Scheider passing. In fact it's interesting how many of these films have made their way into the blog at least a few times before this accounting.

5) Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
How did this not make any of the three lists? Hilarious, moving, and great great songs (although, oddly, like one of its obvious models RHPS, it sort of loses steam towards the end--I guess with a mere inch it's easy to peter out?). John Cameron Mitchell is an amazing talented man. Bonus points for Emily Hubley animation (yes, Georgia of Yo La Tengo's sister).

4) Top Hat (1935)
I love Fred Astaire, would want to be Fred Astaire, all that amazing grace, how sweet the feet. All the Astaire-Rogers musicals are great, and they can seem interchangeable, but I'll give this one the nod. Plus here's a tip of the top hat to Eric Blore and Edward Everett Horton.

3) Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Nostalgic about 1904 in 1944 and therefore now a double time trip. Great score. Judy Garland before she was all fucked up. One of the classic child performances of all-time by Margaret O'Brien (for the Halloween section alone). Not on one of the other guys' lists. Huge mistake by all three.

2) Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Hate the ballad. Love all the rest. Even the ever-too-beaming Kelly. (Remember, all his most famous dance bits, like the title one here, are un-partnered. Hint hint.) Still wishing there was a sequel following Jean Hagen and Donald O'Connor in which the studio hires him to be her tutor
and they somehow fall in love. Probably has to do with singing.

1) The Band Wagon (1953)
Got a whole essay up about this one, so what more can I add now? Oh, Jack Buchanan cracks me up. And this is a lovely number, isn't it?

*Please tell me you don't read my parenths, as sometimes they get a bit excessive.

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Heart Is a Lonely Ian Hunter

What else might come to mind at the beginning of what's supposed to be (and sure is feeling like) a classic Southern California "it doesn't rain but it pours" six day soak? Still it takes more than a good rain to wash away the pull of this miraculously morose little gem that far too many people don't know (yes, that old theme again). If nothing else this still has one of the best two-line openers of all time: "Vinny says this town is dying/it's dying to be just like me" is cleverer than most pop has the right to be, a twist that helps the pessimism go down. For all the loser-filled angst in the lyrics, the song is so god-awful pretty, those little arpeggiated bits floating down, trying to wash something clean, or at the least say early '80s keybs with the a nostalgic, velvety vengeance. Sometimes rain isn't just rain you know. Or at least Ian Hunter knows--as his favorite theme, and how fitting for one who never quite made it as big as he would seem he should and is now mostly a relic, is being someone someday.

As for "Rain," it was just one part of the deluge that was Ian Hunter's run as my pity-popster of choice. Teenage me first gravitated to Jackson Browne and all that worry over being a pretender and not a contender; college-aged me found Hunter, and while I also loved his rocking side (Drew Carey, I want "Cleveland Rocks" back) and his close to Roxy Mott glamorousness (Mott and All the Young Dudes is a heck of a one-two punch), well, even on Mott I might like best the way the album grandly winds down with "The Ballad of Mott the Hoople" and the song that made me first love mandolin (I didn't come to it via my own country, no sir) "I Wish I Was Your Mother," a reinvention of the love song that's achingly tender. Who doesn't need a lesson in non-obvious tender?

For then there's this, too, that makes me forgive the sold soul sax of David Sanborn, makes me think there was value to Queen (that's that background bombast), that's so much that you could fill a vat of all the vinyl I've ever owned with it. We once called them records.

Totally overdone. And I'll take two, please.

Labels: ,

Friday, January 15, 2010


For Dog Blog Friday: Yes, he knows he's gorgeous.


Friday Random Ten

Carla Thomas "I Kinnda Think He Does" The Complete Stax/Volt Singles 1959-1968
Ensemble Romulo Larrea and Veronica Larc "Casapueblo" Collection Un Siecle de Tango--Astor Piazzolla
Nouvelle Vague "I Melt with You" Nouvelle Vague
David Byrne "The Revolution" Look into the Eyeball
Peter Blegvad "You & Me" Just Woke Up
Peter Gabriel "Here Comes the Flood" Shaking the Tree: 16 Golden Greats
Penguin Cafe Orchestra "Vega" Concert Program
R.E.M. "King of Birds" Document
Steve Earle "Six Days on the Road" Ain't Ever Satisfied: The Steve Earle Collection
Radiohead "(Nice Dream)" The Bends

Talking Heads "Blind" Sand in the Vaseline

Solid enough if not a killer, heavy on a bunch of famous folks as much as folks I like get famous. Anybody know if the "Here Comes the Flood" from Robert Fripp's Exposure is available digitally? I've got it on cassette only, of all things.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Fast Pass, We Don't Need No Stinkin' Fast Pass

Space Mountain, the first (WDW that is), turns 35 on Friday but in scream years it's probably close to going supernova. Leave it to those Imagineers to gussy up a mildish if far from Mickey Mouse rollercoaster by turning off the lights--or maybe it's because as they are geeky science guys their wives only have sex with them in the dark, and they figured that's an okay enough ride for them so it should do for everyone. Of course they teased us with a cookie planet for years, too, only to have that constellation crumble, so we know how mean these folks can be. Just ask their wives, who really get tired of the "Have you met my little animatronic friend" jokes.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I ♥ Cheese

I'm sure I've posted a version of this before (even if Blogger's crummy search won't fess up to that fact), but I haven't posted this one and E-6 got me thinking about it and it's a day when I need it so y'all will get it too. To be in such joy at what one can do. To share that joy. Lucky lucky few, Petra Haden and her Sell Outs (so named, not because of their commercial potential but because she formed them to help her recreate live the a cappella Who Sell Out she recorded all by herself).

And while this performance is fine, it's the oh-so-NYC hip crowd I'd like to smack upside its collective too cool for school head, and I'd do it, too, if I wouldn't get my hand impaled on their retro-nerdy glasses. For they want to laugh at "Don't Stop Believin.'" And while Journey might be worth a chuckle or two, the song sure isn't, especially when it's getting sung like this. That's why pop music moves us so, after all--for as long as you sing it, you can believe it. Don't ever think singing is natural, which is why those folks who can't stand musicals because people suddenly burst out in song miss the point entirely. What else is theater, is something as grand and glorious as film (we are made of light and big!), supposed to be but absolutely unnatural? (Leaving aside all traditions of realism, which are really just an act put on with a paltry budget and I'm not sure if I mean money or imagination). Singing let's us rhyme "thrill" with "fill" and not feel like utter douches. Or, more directly, singing let's us feel.

[Digression even for me, so therefore brackets...Which gets us to Glee that co-opted this take of the song from Petra Haden, and of course it did as the show is pure cheese, the underdog losers we all feel we are finding their home, at last, on the island of misfit boys and girls, even if they don't know it, can only show it when their mouths get wide enough to let their hearts out. Which is why Sue Sylvester is so needed, as the Addison DeWitt/Waldo Lydecker to balance out all that sappy-dopey-sweet on the other side of the otherwise off and up in the air teeter-totter. That they then go and auto-tune everything is a problem, and denies the sheer touching, don't-laugh-at-this humanity of Haden and her far from sell outs, but I guess I wrote myself out of my bracket, didn't I?]

So do it, I dare you. Hold on, for one more day.

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Memory that Goes Pong

This is about the first New Year's Eve I remember as NEW YEAR'S EVE, and no doubt this was a late revelation for me, say when I was 12 or 13, but I'm just that way--slow to what matters most. You have to forgive me, or admit I'm more like you than you'd like. For this is a memory of first buzzes, and in a lifetime of them, that means something (that I can remember them, yes, wise guy). What's lovely (and yes, there was childhood lovely, not that it ever felt that way being a child, of course), is so much of childhood gets wrapped up in this neat little bow that lets loose an arrow that pierces the Sears catalog, Andre Cold Duck, and Pong, not to mention my neighborhood friend Dennis Puglia, as it was at his house this happened, his parents' largesse that plopped the world's first home video game and two glasses of infernal bubbly in our probably barely teen laps, as if barely teen laps didn't have enough to deal with, suddenly recognizing what they were for and having no (beyond solo) way to do anything about it. Sometimes for years.

But there was this, Cold Duck, the first humble suggestion there was something delightful in bubbles, and no doubt miserable, but what does a 13-year-old know. He certainly didn't know what Wikipedia says now: "'The recipe was based on a traditional German custom of mixing all the dregs of unfinished wine bottles with champagne. The wine produced was given the name Kaltes Ende ('cold end' in German), until it was humorously altered to the similar sounding term Kalte Ente meaning 'cold duck.'" For if anyone knows humor, it's the Germans.

So we downed our unbeknowst to us thigh-slappingly named fizzy stuff, knowing only it made us fizzy, too. What grace, not to have to worry about the badness of things, the declasse-ness, though no doubt we made jokes about Andre wine and Andre the Giant, and no doubt felt about as body slammed by one as the other might have. We were 13.

And, of course, we tried feats of coordination and skill. (Was this to prepare us for drinking and driving? And don't be mad MADD, as this was years before that national bugaboo, when the drinking age was still 18 and America almost ached to be European a tiny bit, till that Puritan streak glowed brightly and smote fun.) That meant something the kids these days would consider as old as Lascaux, and as exciting -- Pong. The first home games of it came from the Sears catalog, even, and how cool is that, the poorly printed wish list for kids for years for Christmas, at least the ones wise enough to know mom and dad footed Santa's bill at the local mall (this was NJ, folks, and without swamps and malls, NJ would Brigadoon never to be done again). That the Sears Catalog wasn't just where you could pick out the latest games you'd want, but also where you could sneak peaks at bra ads years before Victoria unveiled her secrets was also a fine fine thing for a growing young man.

But, of course, that meant nothing, so you could always bat a little televised dot about. Via a dial. Wired to a console, wired to your tv. I mean, we're talking about an era pre-widespread remote controls for television. We were still not quite to the point with the magic cable box, even (and the hope for more illicitly spied boobies on HBO).

Even the marketing looks to be from another era. How simple we were in the 1970s. We could (well the adults then) even vote for Jimmy Carter for president. But I've got far away from two buzzed boys trying to twirl little controllers to keep the pong pinging from side to side. What a thrill that was, yet we had no idea. So much would get past us over the years beyond the little blip, eras of electronics, legions of liquor (at least in my case, or cases and cases I guess), plus each other. All those years of childhood friendship washed away in difference and lives and a desire by one of us not to be much New Jersey at all, for better or worse.

I raise my glass of sweet sweet Cold Duck to a couple of kids, then, anyway. We didn't know how sweet it was, did we?


Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Random Ten

The Smiths "Shakespeare's Sister" The Sound of the Smiths
Sue Garner "Something Else" To Run More Smoothly
Billy Bragg "Raglan Road" Worker's Playtime
Maddox Brothers & Rose "Fried Potatoes" On the Air: The 1940s
Billy Bragg "Wishing the Days Away" Talking to the Taxman about Poetry
That Dog "Every Time I Try" Retreat from the Sun
Talking Heads "Love --> Building on Fire" The Name of This Band Is Talking Heads
No Man Is Roger Miller "Voluptuous Airplanes" Win! Instantly!
XTC "My Brown Guitar" Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Pt. 2)
The Magnetic Fields "Nothing Matters When We're Dancing" 69 Love Songs

Seam "The Wild Cat" The Problem with Me

I'll take it--starts with the name of a much more famous blog and ends with a cut from a band I loved loved loved back in '93-'94 with some juicy nuggets in between (like one of my favorite early T-Heads). Is kind of odd it can hit on Bragg twice and not get past the ok though.


The Sunshine of My Mook

For Dog Blog Friday: We didn't mean to tell him there's no Santa Claus....


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Presley Sage Resigned in Time?

Friday would be Elvis Presley's 75th birthday, if only he didn't go to the bathroom. To do drugs. And die. But it is curious to wonder what he'd be doing if he were alive today, beyond clawing at the inside of a coffin. (I should bury that bad joke, I know.) Would he be "Elvis the Surgically Replaced Pelvis"? Would he rerecord "I Forgot to Remember to Forget" for the Alzheimer's Association? Let alone "All Shook Up" for the Parkinson's Disease Foundation? Would he at least have kept Lisa Marie from marrying Michael Jackson? or Nick Cage? I do think I'd totally pass on what would no doubt be his latest film "Viva Los Branson."


How Bro Can You Go?

Sure Palestine, New Mexico is a bit of a mess, but what play with that title couldn't be? Currently running at the Mark Taper Forum in LA, PNM is the latest creation of Culture Clash, the brilliant Chicano theater threesome now celebrating their 25th anniversary together. Anybody who has followed Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, and Herbert Siguenza over the years knows their ambitions keep growing, as they've moved from outlandish, socially conscious sketch comedy to more observational, interview-based works, to their more recent plays like Chavez Ravine and Water & Power, still full of madcap humor while addressing in more traditional dramatic form what makes Los Angeles Los Angeles (hint: see linguistic root of the town's name). Palestine, New Mexico expands their reach even further, for that red-rocked desert set is at times an Indian reservation and at others Afghanistan, places of all sorts of heat that the play tries to air out.

That said, the play is informed by one of the most infamous cries ever uttered in LA, "Can we all just get along?" Of course, everyone made fun of Rodney King for that and it's easy to bat the seemingly simple-minded plea about with our cynicism sticks--silly fools, of course we can't, we're nasty, self-serving humans. That's why Culture Clash's humor is so important--it makes it clear that they want their message of brotherly and sisterly love while having some fun with it, too. But it means something this play is the first for CC in which they are bit players--the focus is clearly on Kirsten Potter as Capt. Catherine Siler, a soldier desperate to figure out why PFC Birdsong, a man in her platoon, died. She goes to his res (short for reservation) for answers, and ends up finding ones about herself, too, with help from a crazy cast of characters and a tongue-in-cheek over the top peyote dream quest starring a cactus golem, among other hallucinations. Even stalwart Native American activist and actor Russell Means shows up, in his first play, to portray Birdsong's father and the chief of the tribe. Talk about gravity amidst the levity.

I also want to defend the part of the play that seems to shtick in other critics' throats--when the CC trio come out as old VFW geezers and run through a series of jokes you expect to hear rimshots after. First, it is a pretty funny sequence, so you have to give them that--you can feel their joy in trying to put over some old chestnuts. Second, at this point CC are the vets in the play, so to suggest they are just for laughs is relatively pointed self-criticism. Third, the play will end with a coffin and a kaddish (multi-faith division). There's a dead young man who just wanted peace in there. Who are we to judge anything as ridiculous in the face of that.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Border Halves a Piece of Paper into Here and Hereafter

I'm afraid we're losing maps. Sure, we're GPSed and hand-helded to death, pinned to electronic locations that emit their echoey read glow wherever traffic might slow us down. But they're not maps, and I miss them already. The way they unfolded space for you, offered you more vistas and promises of their friends that could take you further. I was kind of a map geek as a child, reading possible further travel into them, ever surprised how they could predict what one could actually do -- that right turn is really waiting just up there after all. I'd announce to adults when they made wrong turns, plot routes, want, so, to be in the control I knew I knew. (Sure it had nothing else to do with anything else in my life I'd want that.) Maps were a key to the world, so I spent time mastering how to unlock them.

One might say, "But maps, they go out of date so fast!" And I'd say, "Yes, how wonderful." All the history in them, the freeway before the earthquake tore it down, the home town signalled by an ever-growing circle of commuter population, the open space now besmirched with the box mall and its piddling roadwaylets no doubt named after the trees that used to stand where they now run.

For as a child I loved them for history more than anything. Those wonderful American Heritage books with the elaborate maps of Revolutionary or Civil War battles, Antietam's acres alive with troops, and then not very alive at all. The map made it seem so pristine, somehow, so much part of a paper-y safe story. Years later I'd stand on that land and it was as if a book rose about me, and some curious and mindlessly malicious child stared down.

Plus maps can never be folded back correctly, a sign once the journey's out there's no containing it, that we must keep looking, for the way is there and won't be denied.

Labels: ,

Oh, Bucket!

Hey, there's a post over here!


eXTReMe Tracker